Intro to sociology
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Intro to Sociology. Emile Durkheim. Emile Durkheim. Born 1858; Died 1917 Born in Epinal , France Works: The Rules of Sociological Method The Division of Labor Suicide The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

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Intro to sociology

Intro to Sociology

Emile Durkheim


Emile durkheim

Emile Durkheim

  • Born 1858; Died 1917

  • Born in Epinal, France

  • Works:

    • The Rules of Sociological Method

    • The Division of Labor

    • Suicide

    • The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

  • Contributed to the formation of sociology as an independent, scientific discipline


Sociology definitions

Sociology (Definitions)

  • Social Facts – A category of facts with characteristics “external to an individual” that exert power over a person.

  • “external to a person” means that these characteristics are transpersonal experiences—things with an basis in internal experience that are not unique in essence to an individual’s internal experience.

    • Operative Facts: legal codes, aesthetics, language

      How society uses tools in order to thrive.

    • Structural Facts: demographics, geographical distribution, Urban architecture

      How society organizes itself in order to thrive.

  • Society – The “collective consciousness” of a group of people

  • Sui Generis– Irreducible to component parts, “of its own kind.”


Sociology method

Sociology (Method)

  • Domain: “social facts” – All research and reflection must be relative to the social causes and implications of (human) life. Everything is (must be) social.

  • Reasoning: relating social causes to social effects. (causal mechanism)

    • E.g., social estrangement is a factor in suicide.

    • Functional – relating the social fact to the social organism (as opposed to the interior psychology).


Durkheim on religion

Durkheim on Religion


Method

Method

  • The most primitive forms of religion exhibit the essential features of religion that have been obscured by the “luxuries” and advancements of mature religions.

  • Since the facts are simpler, the relations between them are more apparent.

  • What happens in primitive religion is an analogy for what happens in mature religions.


Epistemology knowledge

Epistemology (Knowledge)

  • Two forms of knowledge: empirical and categorical

  • Empirical – knowledge gained by observation

  • Categorical (Traditional) – Preconceived concepts by which we organize our observations

  • Categorical (Durkheim) – The representation of society within each individual’s consciousness – “collective representation” (E.g., Genetic Heritage)

  • Functionalism – the content of the categories change over time and culture, it is this same basic pattern that reveals an increasing uniformity that will eventually result in the ultimate uniformity.


Religion

Religion

  • “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things—things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite in one single more community…all those who adhere to them.”

  • Three Essential Elements

    • Sacred object (e.g., God, America, etc.)

    • Set of beliefs and practices

    • Moral community

  • Religion is established in moments of “collective effervescence”—points at which people are united in behavior and purpose.

    • Ecstatic psychic feelings implies a “higher” ideality

  • Ideality is projected onto an external symbol.

  • This symbol is actually a representation of society’s ideals—it is a way of society understanding itself.

  • “Religion is a society worshipping itself—it is society’s ideals and forces hypostatized.”


Connections

Connections

  • Because (a) categorical knowledge is social knowledge and (b) religion is a representation of social ideals, (1) religion is a social phenomenon; (2) all societies are intrinsically religious; and (3) religions are an important and healthy part of society.

  • Religious experiences are “real” in the sense that they do embody societal ideals. They are unreal in the sense that their content is symbolic and not descriptive or explanatory.

  • Durkheim expresses a functionalist theory of religion: religion is defined in terms of a set of processes as opposed to a set of content.


Criticisms

Criticisms

  • The increasing diversity or plurality of modern societies make it difficult or even impossible to apply Durkheim’s theory of religion outside of small, isolated groups.

  • The functionalist account defines religion too broadly in the sense that everything on this account is religious, or that there is nothing that is not potentially a religious/religion.

    • It rejects alternative or peripheral explanations of transcendence:

      • The philosophical question of the objective value of any given thing

      • The psychological question of individuality and idiosyncrasy in belief


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